If you have been charged with a federal crime, then you may be curious about what will happen when you enter the appeals process. First, you have two appeal options that you can use, but for one of those appeal choices, you only have fourteen days to file the Notice of Appeal. The court is very strict on these timelines. They won’t allow you to be one day late on your formal notice. So you need to be sure you know what direction you want to go and that you have the proper legal guidance.
Your Appeals Options
The first choice in an appeal is called a direct appeal. This is where you feel that the judge or jury has done something that has affected the outcome of your case. The second option is to use a 2255. This type of appeal is filed when you feel that the attorney that represented you didn’t protect your rights, and you didn’t get a proper defense. Once you determine the best option, you must gather your documentation and file the petition. If you had a previous attorney that messed up your case, then you will need to hire a new lawyer to draft these documents. Going into a federal appeals court will require you to have legal counsel that is knowledgeable in this area of law.
The Docketing Statement
The next process is to file a docketing statement. These are just a formality, and it will help the court know how to handle the case. At this time, transcripts from the trial will be prepared, if they haven’t already done so. The court issues a briefing schedule that allows you time to file your opening brief.
The Opening Brief
What is the opening brief? It’s a paper the lawyer files at the beginning of an appeal. It states all the reasons why the court should overturn your conviction. They document everything that has happened in your trial, and they show how errors have affected the outcome. The burden of proof falls on you as the defendant, so the court gives you 45 days to prepare this document. It’s usually quite lengthy in size as it has your case history as well as other similar cases for the appellate court to review.
Once you turn your brief into the court, the government will also file their brief. They will answer the arguments you made in your claim and state why they feel the trial was done correctly. They will also give their recommendations on the matter. Once they file their answer, then your lawyer can file a reply brief. You will respond to any points made and reiterate the points that you originally made about not getting a fair trial.
The Panel of Judges
Once all briefs are filed and answered, then the appeal goes before a panel of judges. The President appoints three judges for the federal circuit. Unlike elected officials, these judges sit on the bench for life. They review the documentation and decide which step they would like to take. They can decide the appeal based on the evidence they have, or they can ask for an oral argument.
An oral argument gives the attorneys for the government and the defendant a chance to argue their points. It won’t be quite like the trial where they call witnesses and such. Rather, it’s mostly the attorneys going nose-to-nose on the issues of the trial and how they feel it was or wasn’t fair to the defendant. Once all arguments are heard, then the judges decide the case.
The Option To Appeal To The Supreme Court
It can be quite frightening to deal with the court system and all the appeals. However, you need an attorney standing beside you and making sure all the deadlines are met. Being found guilty doesn’t mean that the case is over, you still have at least two levels of appeals that you can pursue.